The ship ploughed through the waves leaving behind it a trail of foam and the sun, which was already low in the sky, peeked out from behind a cloud at the young woman who stood at the stern, gazing at the disappearing land with deep longing in her eyes and sorrow in her heart. This was Princess Sigrun, the daughter of King Hogni, and she was leaving her home for the land of King Granmar.
“My Lady,” a gentle voice said behind her but the princess did not turn and her eyes remain fixed upon a spot upon the distant horizon.
“I can still see it,” she whispered, more to herself than to the servant who had approached. “Home…”
“My Lady,” the maid said again, stepping forward to stand beside her mistress. “The air is cold. You might catch a chill.”
“I wish I would,” the princess replied sadly. After a moment she added. “I wish I had the courage to throw myself into these waters and perish in their depths.”
“My Lady! Please don’t say such things!” The wide-eyed maid had placed a restraining hand upon the girl’s arm.
“Don’t fear, girl,” Sigrun said shaking the hand off with a little laugh. “I love life too much to end it just yet. Besides, it is not life that I wish to escape but this dreadful marriage.”
“Perhaps it won’t be so bad, my Lady,” the maid offered timidly. “Maybe Prince Hodbrod will make you a good husband. I have heard that he is very handsome.”
The princess had turned to look at her maid and now shook her head slowly.
“Oh I am sure he thinks so,” she said with a bitter smile. “Hodbrod is an arrogant swine. I’d rather marry a crow than that brute. But I have no choice. Father would not listen to my pleading.” The face of King Hogni rose unbidden in her mind. He had been furious at her refusal to accept Prince Hodbrod’s proposal and would not listen to reason.
“You are my daughter!” he had shouted. “You will marry whomever I choose!”
And that was it. A day for the wedding was decided upon and the princess and a few maids were sent with her dowry to the land of King Granmar. There was nothing Sigrun could do to stop it.
“Do you remember that young man we met on the road to the ships, Mistress?” the maid asked quickly, trying to distract Sigrun from the thoughts of the wedding.
“Yes,” the princess said softly. “Yes, I remember him.”
The tall young man with the body and face of an Aesir had crossed her path only days earlier as she and her servants were making their way to the shores of her homeland. He had stopped their party and invited them to dine with him and his companion.
“Please accept my apologies, kind Sir,” she had replied. “We must reach the shores before the tide turns as there are ships waiting there for us.”
“And where will you be travelling, Princess?” the young man had asked with a smile. There had been something about the man; something in his eyes and in his manner that had made Sigrun trust him without question. And she had told him of the journey she was to take and of the wedding that was to be. The man had bowed low and placing her hand politely to his lips, had wished her joy. The stranger’s touch and his kindness had brought tears to her eyes and without knowing what she did, she poured into his ear her sorrows. “I wish it could be so, Sir,” she had whispered. “But I go against my will and would sooner marry a beast than the prince to whom I have been forcibly given.”
She had ridden away shortly afterward, but a backward glance many moments later showed her that the stranger had not moved or taken his eyes off of her.
“Who was he?” the maid asked now, jolting the princess out of her reverie. “That stranger we met.”
“That, my dear girl, was Prince Helgi of Hunland,” Sigrun replied with a little smile.
“The son of King Sigmund?!” the servant squealed. “Then the man with him must have been his half-brother Sinfjotli. I have heard such stories about that family. Things horrible enough to curdle one’s blood!”
“Then do not speak of them!” the princess said sharply. “The Volsungs are honourable and brave and I will hear nothing against them.”
“I am certain Prince Helgi would have helped you had you asked him, my Lady.” the maid said quickly. “Perhaps he could have stolen you away before we reached the ships.”
The princess turned to the maid with a frown.
“The prince is not a bandit,” she said coldly. “As I said, the Volsungs are too honourable to do such things. If he did intend to help me, it would be by waging war upon this dog that I am being married off to and winning me from him. That would be honourable and brave and worthy of a Volsung.”
“But,” the princess added sadly after a pause. “Prince Helgi has probably forgotten all about me by now. It is best not to think of him.”
But the princess could not have been further from the truth. Prince Helgi, the son of Sigmund had not forgotten the young woman he had met so briefly; nor had he forgotten the sorrow in her eyes when she had spoken of her forced marriage. In fact, at that moment, the prince was gathering his forces and preparing an attack upon the Kingdom of King Granmar where the princess was being taken.
Would Prince Helgi be able to rescue Sigrun from her cruel fate? Would his army prevail against King Granmar and his son Prince Hodbrod? We will find out next time…
*Based on the Volsunga Saga